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Wave Hello To Your Kids, Go To Jail
Jenny Johnston and Rachel Halliwell write in the Daily Mail/UK about a divorced dad in the UK who was not only prohibited by his wife and the courts from seeing his kids, but who was jailed merely for waving at them as they drove past, and again for driving past their house and trying to catch a glimpse of them.

Only when his kids, after a fight with their mother, packed up their things, went to a bus stop and called him to pick them up did the court consider his rights -- or what might be good for the children from an objective point of view (versus the mother's vindictiveness). His daughter Lisa, now 20, talks about the years she and her siblings lost with their dad:

'One minute we were normal children. The next we were in a rented house with Dad hammering on the door demanding to be allowed to see us,' she says. 'We were scared. None of it made sense. Sometimes we'd be allowed to see Dad regularly, then there were times with no contact at all.

'When Dad disappeared out of our lives, we just thought he had stopped loving us. I was certain I'd done something wrong. 'The first time we saw him waving to us as we went to school, I was thrilled. I remember thinking: "He still cares."

'Every morning, Mum would tell us we shouldn't look at him - that he was a bad man - yet we couldn't help but grin when we saw him. It made our day.' It was impossible for Lisa's mother to go a different route.

WHEN her father went to prison, no one explained to Lisa why. 'Mum said: "You see - I told you he was bad." I was ten years old. As far as I knew, you had to do something pretty awful to go to prison.'

She turned against her father, telling social workers she didn't want to see him. Yet with hindsight she explains she was simply trying to gain control over the horrific situation.

'There was this endless pantomime with social workers wanting to know what I thought. All I wanted was to be allowed to love both my parents, but I knew that was never going to happen.

'Mum's hatred for Dad was so deep that to keep her happy, and to get them off my back, I said I wouldn't see him. Turning love to hate made that easier. I told myself that my dad had been wicked, so he deserved it.'

When the courts finally granted access, Lisa was so tortured that she often didn't turn up to see her father. She thought she was protecting her mother by siding with her.

However, when she fell out with her mother during a phase of teenage rebellion, it was to her father that she fled - and when she discovered he had never stopped loving her, she was left reeling.

'I'd never forgotten Dad's number. I know I was only ringing him then to get back at Mum, but when I heard his voice, I wanted to cry. I told him I loved him and that I wanted to see him. Everything just flooded out.'

The first meeting was as hard for her as it was for him. 'The last time I'd seen him I'd been ten and carrying a skipping rope. When I walked into my old bedroom - and saw it was as I had left it - I wanted to sob. I didn't dare do so, though, because I knew if I did I'd never stop.'

Four years on, Lisa and Mark are only just beginning to rebuild their relationship. Every day, more gaps are filled, and more trust regained.

Meanwhile, Lisa rarely sees her mother, and she is angry at her mother's behaviour. It is a desperately sorry story, with no real winners. But then, as Lisa points out, it was never supposed to be a contest.

'I wish to God that my parents had avoided the courts from day one, and simply shared us, the children they created together,' she says.

'Instead, complete strangers were allowed to get involved in our lives to such an extent that everyone lost sight of the needs of us children.

'I love both my parents; I always will. But I will never get my childhood back. It is gone for ever.'

via ifeminists

Posted by aalkon at June 27, 2007 1:43 PM

Comments

In the past few years, post-9/11, I've stopped using the word "evil" casually, which I should have done long before. I no longer talk about "the evil recording industry," for example - I save the "evil" sobriquet for people such as, y'know, Osama and his ilk. I don't ONLY use it for terrorists, but I've stopped using it for people and groups who are merely craven.

This mother? Is evil. Even by my new definition. The court system that helped her out is beyond screwed beyond hope. Those poor kids.

Posted by: marion at June 27, 2007 5:48 AM

The bitterness of divorce makes unreliable narrators of us all.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 27, 2007 6:36 AM

More reporting from the body of the Mail story:

Over the next few weeks, Mark stumbled through life in a daze. He saw his girls every day he wasn't working, but his anger towards his wife was building up.

Two months after she left, she asked if he would take her back. Mark was too hurt to contemplate that. Instead, he launched divorce proceedings.

Does this change why Mark and his kids have suffered?

Probably not, in the long run.

But, as in most divorce narratives, both sides can claim insufferable provocation.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 27, 2007 6:53 AM

Maybe if this girl's Mother had treated her like a person instead of a tool with which to torture her ex husband this wouldn't have been so bad. I don't know if not involving the courts would necessarily have made it better, it sounds like the mom is a nut job.

Posted by: Shinobi at June 27, 2007 7:04 AM

Sorry, the following should have been in italics as a quote from the main story:

Two months after she left, she asked if he would take her back. Mark was too hurt to contemplate that. Instead, he launched divorce proceedings.

Shinobi,
I agree there seems to be tons of nut jobbery about the mom's behavior and some disgracefully obtuse court decisions.

It's just one ends up exasperated trying to allow for bitter exaggerations on both sides. (Which is why I often end up tediously commenting on why I don't comment on these stories!)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 27, 2007 7:17 AM

Why is there so much anger on both sides of these disputes? Is it because both parties (or perhaps only one) were only projecting their fantasies onto the other person, and didn't actually take the time to get to know each other? Sounds like another whirlwind courtship that turned into a destructive tornado.

Posted by: Chrissy at June 27, 2007 8:50 AM

Jody, I only skimmed: Why should the guy go to jail if he only decided his wife deserved no forgiveness even though he missed his kids?

You're right about the narrative-corrupting bitterness, it's why I'm only skimming. We need these stories reduced to a single sentence.....

Posted by: Crid at June 27, 2007 1:47 PM

The problem with cases like this is that outside observers (including judges) rarely know for sure if the apparently-evil party is being made to look that way by the spouse. This guy might be unjustly cut off from his kids by his ex, but the next one might be an abusive sociopath whose waves to the kids are intended to give their mother the message that he can grab them and disappear any time he wants. To the judge, their cases look pretty much the same.

Posted by: Rex Little at June 27, 2007 3:06 PM

"We need these stories reduced to a single sentence....."...

...which would probably be "I loved you!" (delivered by the guy with a Brandoesque roar of pain as the writs fly).

Sadly, few of us end up any wiser with these Daily Mail reality divorce soap opeas, Crid. The paper loves 'em.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 27, 2007 4:00 PM

This story has incredible power-- both as a commentary on the anti- father bias in the family court system of GB and of the incredible love of this father for his children-- being jailed twice for waving and driving by the kids home-- and staying with it for many years, despite his vindicative wife and rulings from incompetent /biased judges.
Incredibly, one poster seeks to drain the story totally of its social and emotional significance. According to this person-- everyone is unreliable in divorce proceedings ( what evidence does she have that the father was in this case ), both sides here can claim insufferable provocation ( not in this case) and we should allow for bitter exaggerations on both sides ( no evidence of the father doing this is presented in this case).
"Insufferable provocation" from the father !-- desiring a divorce from a woman who left, took the kids, and said she did not love him ? Why do you need to discredit this man's deeply moving story of his abuse by the family court system and somehow imply he is equally at fault?
The daughter told us of bitter exaggerations on the mother's part. There is no evidence of such on the father's part. Why do you assume them with no evidence?
From this story we "don't end up any wiser"-- of course we do-- if we have an open mind. We learn that the Star Chamber like family court system in GB is run by judges and social workers who took the uncorroborated word of the mother and thereby destroyed a responsible and loving father's relationship with his children. Thus-- the system is wide open for abuse of father's rights. The writers even state that the system "has much to answer for in this case".
Why are you so threatened by this story of a loving father whose rights were cruelly violated and had incredible suffering visited on him and his children-- by the mother and the family court system. There is not one scintilla of evidence he exaggerated anything, provoked anything or was unreliable in any way-- all of which you imply. Why do you feel the need to try to delegitimize this very moving story ?
Is there any set of facts on which you would say that the father's rights were grossly abused? If you ride the fence on this one, assuming he is equally bad as the mother with no evidence whatever, can there ever be an instance of injustice directed toward fathers?

Posted by: jedwards at June 27, 2007 9:37 PM

Wait. I think I know this woman. I saw her in the movies.

"NOOOOOO!!! WIIIIIIRE!!! HANGERRRRRRRS!!! EVERRRRR!!!"

Posted by: Patrick at June 28, 2007 2:53 AM

To be fair to me, jedwards.

I frequently reach the same weary conclusion about many similar UK Daily Mail slice of life/womb trembler features of this type when the stage is held by only one adult partner in the divorce.

I also noted: "I agree there seems to be tons of nut jobbery about the mom's behavior and some disgracefully obtuse court decisions."

But you carry on being selective.


Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 28, 2007 5:08 AM

Jedwards,

The following UKDaily Mail feature from today's paper is much more typical fun. (About a German doctor of chemistry - sorta one of Joe's esteemed international colleagues? - who has eaten nothing for six years; he thrives on sunshine & fruitjuice & reckons the world's starving hordes just need to adjust their attitude.)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=464814&in_page_id=1770

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 28, 2007 9:38 AM

Selective ? Your four comments -
1) the first comment implies that the father is unreliable ( because we all are in divorce) when no evidence exists he is--
2) the next comment actually claims he committed "insufferable provocation" by divorcing a woman who left him with the children without notice and said she no longer loved him. Thats ridiculous. Why do you feel the need to blame him somehow?
--3) it "seems" like nutjobery and bad court behavior, but "its just" that we have to "allow for" "bitter exaggeration on both sides"-- there is no evidence presented of any exaggeration on the father's part.
4) we gain no knowledge from this case-- you claim we learn nothing from the gross violation of this father's rights. Why ? How do you prevent-=- and why do you feel the need to obfuscate-- the obvious conclusion that the British courts discriminate against fathers and take the word of mothers without any question,
It is difficult to imagine a more loving and dedicated father whose rights were so grossly violated by the courts who implemented the dishonest agenda of the Mother.
Selective ? You state this "seems" to be a case of nutjobbery and bad decisons but "its just " that you have to "allow for bitter exaggerations on both sides"-- when there is no evidence of that on the father's side. You quoted it "seems" that she is a nut and that these are bad decisions by implying they may not be because of the need to allow for bitter exaggerations from the father.
Hosed, as you say.
What a fair person asks is -- is this typical of the system in Britain and ,if it is, the sexist discrimnation against fathers by the courts should stop.

Secondly--Lets assume your point is well-taken .If exaggerations and unreliability and provocations occur on both sides equally , why do fathers typically get the short end and why do mothers need only make an allegation to have it believed by the courts? If both parties are liars, why do the mother's lies typically-- as in this case--get recognized and enforced by the court?


Posted by: jedwards at July 3, 2007 12:48 AM

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